Google and Facebook currently control about 73 percent of US digital ad revenues in the US. Publishers—and in particular the News Media Alliance, a trade association representing over US and Canadian newspapers—are fighting back, Nitasha Tiku reported for Wired in March, 2018. As Tiku reported, while publishers “shoulder all of the cost” of producing the content that brings audiences to Google and Facebook, “the digital duopoly reaps most of the profits.” For example, in December 2017, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote, “Google and Facebook are taking the vast majority of ad revenue, and paying content creators far too little for the value they deliver to users.”
In March of 2018, Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island introduced legislation intended to help smaller and independent news agencies in this battle, by exempting them from antitrust enforcement “so they can negotiate collectively over terms for distributing their content.” As Tiku reported, Cicilline’s bill is designed “to level the playing field between publishers and the tech giants, not dictate the outcome. Without an exemption, collective action by publishers could run afoul of antitrust laws around colluding over price or refusal to deal with competitors.” David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, said the group is not intending to “withhold content immediately. We would just want the legal ability to do so.”
According to Chavern, the News Media Alliance seeks changes in five areas: platforms such as Google and Facebook should share data about the publishers’ readers; better highlight trusted brands; support subscriptions for publishers; and potentially share more ad revenue and consider paying for some content.
Source: Nitasha Tiku, “Publishers Could Get a New Weapon Against Facebook and Google,” Wired, March 7, 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/bill-would-let-publishers-gang-up-versus-facebook-and-google/.
Student Researcher: Molly Peterson (College of Western Idaho)
Faculty Evaluator: Michelle Mahoney (College of Western Idaho)